Serving Chicago's Great Northwest Suburbs

Monday, March 18, 2019

Prospect Heights Election Questionnaire: Wendy Morgan-Adams

Name: Wendy Morgan-Adams

Running for: City Council, 3rd Ward

Age: 64

Occuptation (if retired, former occupation): Attorny and CEO of the Law Firm of Wendy R. Morgan in Prospect Heights.

Interesting facts about yourself: 32-year resident of Prospect Heights involved in community work for most of that period; 38 years as a successful litigation attorney and business management of the Law Firm of Wendy R. Morgan in Prospect Heights. Published articles in legal magazines and lecturer for legal and educational groups, 15 years president of a commercial condominium association and five years president of a residential condominium association. Soloist and choir member at various community, civic and religious institutions, functions and events; wife, mother and grandmother.

Experience serving the city or community: Incumbent elected city clerk of Prospect Heights and on city council. Appointed and

By Tom Wessell | on March 13, 2019

represented Prospect Heights on the Strategic Directions Committee, appointed and represented Prospect Heights on the Northwest Municipal Conference Legislative Committee working on legislative initiatives and legislation impacting on Prospect Heights, elected director serving on the Wheeling/Prospect Heights Chamber of Commerce. Appointed and served to re-establish the Prospect Heights Water Committee to serve all water issues, appointed and worked to revamp the city website to promote transparency in city government, 15 years Rotarian and past president of the Rotary Club of Mt. Prospect/Prospect Heights working on community projects in our town, four years Rotary District 6440 Youth Protection Officer. Worked with Prospect Heights police to derail adolescent crime.

Please state why you are running for office, and what you can bring to the council if elected: My Ward 3 and the city as a whole need experienced, responsive, accountable leadership and I am the only candidate who has the knowledge, experience, and skills to provide that solid and responsive representation on the City Council. If elected I will work for our residents and promote their needs both in my ward and the city as a whole. My law office is in Prospect Heights and I am very accessible to residents which has been a problem with past aldermen. I intend to set up a website and have monthly meetings with residents to promote better communications to be better able to work on resident issues. I have been working on flooding, drainage, street repair, water issues, sidewalk issues, and economic development already both on the Strategic Direction Committee, on the City Council, on the water committee and on many other key committees which I have served. I will pursue these issues and capital improvement projects and future projects to tailor and meet the needs of all of our residents. I plan to keep our residents informed on city business and will promote further transparency in city government. I will pursue developing a plan for our sewer system once the televising is complete to best serve our residents. I will work to keep our budget balanced and to further promote economic development to keep our city thriving. With 38 years of successful advocacy skills as an attorney I know how to represent residents and accomplish their goals. I have a reputation as an independent thinker and cannot be manipulated, intimidated, coerced, or influenced by others. I am very sensitive to individual resident needs and will be responsive to same. I have a substantial city and community work experience background and my work on condominium boards has also prepared me to have the experience and expertise to best serve the community.

From your point of view, what is your ward’s greatest need?: Flooding and drainage issues take the lead at this time. With several areas to tackle council is currently working on two projects and have identified several more. With the Willow Road project which has been approved by council and funded highly by the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District the Ad Hoc committee is investigating to amend the project to meet the needs and concerns of Hillcrest Lake and nearby area residents. Engineering plans are being worked on in the Arlington Countryside area which project does not have government funding or grants. Fortunately, with the upcoming sale of the 10 acres of Piper Lane area property we will have substantial additional funds coming into the city over the next three years or so which can assist in the funding of this project and others. It is important to add we have other projects in the works for sidewalks, street repair and other capital improvements which are very important as well.

How can Prospect Heights improve or promote greater transparency with the public? Please share your ideas: The revamping of the city website, which I have worked on, has made huge inroads to improving transparency by placing minutes and agendas on the website for city council and city committee meetings, televising and placing tapes of said meetings on the website and placing a substantial amount of city business information on the website. The website is interactive and easy to maneuver. However, it is still a work in progress and needs to continue to be improved. I talk to residents all the time who request additional information to be placed on the website and I will continue to meet these continued requests of residents for more information about city business and government to be placed on the website. We need more resident forums and events. Residents should be able to email and communicate with their alderman at all times and have monthly at meetings set up for this purpose to keep the residents apprised of what the city is doing and their plans. The city can do a better job of posting information on the website and make city business information more available to the residents. We do have our news and quarterly newsletters which do help update our residents but residents want more and deserve to have more.

What are your thoughts on video gambling? Has it been good for Prospect Heights? Is there room for more? Or should the city take steps to slow its spread? If so, what would you propose?: With about 11 or more video gambling venues it has been a plus to Prospect Heights in bringing in the vicinity of about $200,000 per year in revenue to our city. Prospect Heights has not experienced any crime or problems with video gambling. Nor are there problems with the people coming to use these venues. The city does have strict zoning and planning requirements for video gambling to be placed in establishments. In addition, video gambling establishments have to serve food and are required to have minimum seating requirements. Some of the restaurants and food establishments in our town depend on the video gambling income to continue to operate and thrive. I don’t think it should be stopped and the spreading is market driven. We have not had a request for a video establishment recently and the council always has the final right to determine whether a proposed establishment for video gambling will be approved which can and should be on a case by case basis.

Do you believe Prospect Heights needs Home Rule power, or should it continue to do without? Please explain why: Prospect Height has had now four referendums defeated, the last one being in November 2018. The vote has been very close the last few times with approximately 46% in favor and 54% against. Prospect Heights has managed to operate in the black with continued economic development over the last eight years and offering sales tax declining rebates to new businesses which brings in revenue without home rule.

We are going to be receiving approximately $2.5 million over the next three or so years from the sale of the Piper Lane property which will assist in some of the funding of our capital improvement projects as stated above but after that we may have very limited funds for further capital improvement projects.
The voters need to decide if they want to have the $750,000 or more of annual revenues which come with home rule and the additional benefits of home rule. Some of these additional benefits include having a better interest rate on bonds and be eligible for additional grants and government funding not available to non-home rule communities, or explore other options.

Although some residents voiced concerns about city taxing power as a reason to reject home rule, the City Council did vote on a resolution which provided that the council would be prohibited to tax residents without residents voting for it in a referendum, except in cases of dire emergency. This would seem to alleviate the fear of the city as a taxing power but some residents are still adamant against home rule. Many residents were not aware of this resolution. In spite of two city forums and others by a home rule committee the referendum did not carry either because residents did not avail themselves of these events and the education they provided, didn’t vote, or don’t trust city officials. Hotels, real estate agents and video gambling lobbyists also made a huge push back against home rule for their own benefit, which also impacted on the home referendum not passing.

There are some other ways to generate income for the city and continued economic development must be a central part of it. All options carry risk. The prior City Council, from over four years ago, voted down good options for city development which could have brought in substantial additional revenue. Whether we can find and have the opportunity for such development in the future and how much and to what extent income can be generated is the question. We need to investigate these options, determine our direction, and/or decide whether another home rule referendum should take place in 2020 and whether it would be successful.

Emphasis has been placed on one day developing a “City Center”. What ideas do you have for a City Center that would make it successful?: We are now pursuing and encouraging current and new commercial owners to use their own funds to revamp and develop the area square emanating from the southeast corner of Camp McDonald and 83, and the square of the intersection of Camp McDonald and 83, (excluding the southwest corner, which is Mt. Prospect), the north and south on 83 and east and west of Camp McDonald. We are also looking for developers who would be interested in investing their own money to develop the area. The antiquated retail space in that area would bring better revenues to the city if that retail space was revamped. It would be great if retail could be placed on the first floor and apartments on a second and/or third floor to enhance traffic and sales. We cannot forget that sales tax is out most important source of revenue.

If the city received a $1 million grant to use in anyway it wanted, what would you propose it be used for?: A majority of the funds could be best utilized at this time toward flooding and drainage issues but would not be enough to handle any large project. The city also consistently runs out of money for certain departments who make due but who would operate more efficiently and smoothly with additional funding and some of the funds could be used for that purpose.

Where do you stand on Chicago Executive Airport’s consideration to one day possibly extend the airport’s main runway?: It does not appear that any of the options to expand the runway are viable and reasonable for the two communities and would involve displacing residents at the cost of the cities involved. Out city cannot afford to fund that cost of displacement and residents should not have to be displaced, Further, it has been announced that the airport master plan will now not include any plan to expand the runway.

What steps would you take to put Prospect Heights on a firmer financial footing?: The most practical way at this time in a non-home rule city is that the city must step up its efforts to pursue and accomplish more substantial economic development. This includes all elected officials, city staff and the mayor working to investigate, research and locate new businesses, push existing businesses to enhance and revamp, and be willing to work with developers for further building and expansion of commercial and residential places. Sales tax is still our main source of revenue. The goal is not to invest our own money if we can find commercial businesses and developers to do so for us. We have now several vacant business spaces which remain unfilled. Economic development can bring in more sales tax and new development can also bring in revenues for permit fees, utility taxes, inspection fees, declining sales tax rebates, and other revenues.

How do you feel about transportation options available in the city? What would you do to increase options for pedestrians, bicyclists and/or motorists?: Prospect Heights has a Metra station which operates frequently during the week but not on weekends. There is some concern that Metra may decide to scale down costs and this will impact on the continuation of that station. At this time, however, Metra does serve the community with regard to trains although some residents are equally close to the Arlington Heights or Mt. Prospect train station. The city has a contract with ComEd and takes responsibility for the Metra station parking lot. The city collects parking costs for vehicles which are far lower than other communities. The parking lot overall is not profitable to the city and in fact the city takes a loss each year. The lot will soon require substantial work and money to be invested by the city for re-pavement and repairs.

For pedestrians and bicyclists, the city has three grant applications for sidewalks which would include bike paths to be drawn and designated. The one on Schoenbeck is approved and bids are anticipated to begin for construction in the next several months. The application for sidewalks on Wolf Road is pending and there is an application going in for Camp McDonald. Sidewalks and bike paths will increase public safety and are a substantial benefit to the community in these areas.
Motorists need to have streets that don’t continue to flood. The city has lost three squad cars on Willow Road and residents have lost vehicles there as well. Hopefully, the Willow Road project will remedy some of those motorist issues. There are other streets which also flood on a regular basis and are also problems for motorists which need to be addressed.